Is the cop's wife "guilty of being white" like D.C. punk Ian McKaye once proclaimed as frontman of the hardcore band Minor Threat? More to the point, is Ella(Charlize Theron) guilty of being American? Born into a consumer culture and raised on oblivion, Ella's hermetically sealed world of ruined Brazilian vacation plans and other middle-class related angst is shattered like that display window in the department store she shops at for baby clothes. The self-righteous rabble-rouser admonishes Ella for alienating herself from the world at-large; he lambastes the pregnant woman because she doesn't see the bigger picture: i.e. the children in third world sweat-shops who will clothe her second trimester fetus for life. Without that transparent safeguard for protection, Ella asks her equally apolitical friend, "What the hell is going on out there?" as she is no longer able to live in blissful ignorance. Instead of engaging with the body politic of WTO protesters, however, her ignorance refashions itself as arrogance, since the cop's wife continues to abide by the status quo. Back at work, Ella's boss sends his employees home when a bloodied political dissenter staggers into his store. Out on the streets, unable to hail a taxi or catch a bus, Ella is peeved, since now, finally, the riot has a tangible effect on her life; she can't get home. While chaos prevails, Ella ignores the teeming masses and squeezes her way through huddled congregations without the least bit of curiosity. The political charge has no cling. Ella of "Battle in Seattle", far from being a subordinate character, might be its most important, as the filmmaker places the American woman in a dialectical relationship with a delegate from the African caucus.
"Battle in Seattle" is too diffuse by half were its agenda to portray political activism as an effective weapon of discourse to use against the WTO's unwritten and almost sociopathic policy to miscarry justice, in the name of profit over people. Peter Greengrass' "Bloody Sunday" immediately springs to mind as an exemplary film about an insurgency, as the 2002 film about the British army's attack on Catholic marchers at a non-violent civil rights demonstration in Ireland, focused solely on the Gaelic hippies. Conversely, this filmmaker undermines his supposed attempt to present civic disobedience in a positive light, every time it's the mayor's turn in the film's multi-narrative approach. An inference is made by showing how incompetent Jim Tobin(Ray Liotta) was in preparing for the WTO conference; the inference being that maintaing order should always be the main objective, in which shrewder administrative decisions would have resulted in a vacuum of people on the immediate city blocks and well-attended symposiums. Contrary to the film's subjective approach towards the anarchy in Seattle, a riot is sometimes necessary, especially in this case, as a means of alerting the politically uninformed(Ella, for example) about the carte blanche style of the ruling parties(who maintain their hegemony over the third world countries by the will of their bigger GNPs) in the WTO. In plain sight, the third world caucus gets the shaft when Abassi(Issache De Bankole) is informed by a WTO official that their interpreters are being yanked for matters more pressing than medicine reaching the populations of underdeveloped countries. Interrelated to millions of transoceanic lives is one American life, in the film's overruling scene, where Ella, an innocent bystander, seemingly, absorbs a blow to the stomach, delivered by a policeman's club. At first glance, the baby seems like a sacrifice, a punishment for Ella's disinterest with Abassi's main concern, but as it turns out, the cop's wife is neither guilty of being white nor American. In another overruling scene, Abassi, distraught over the treatment he and his delegates receive from the governing body, walks to a window and draws inspiration from the crowd gathered outside, a largely stateside one. In a sense, Abassi's activism is colonized by America. Even though Ella's miscarriage can be summed up as a karmic convergence, due to her apathetic stance towards global matters, the film's diffuse approach allows Ella's tragedy to superimpose itself over Africa's loss, therefore putting "Battle in Seattle" in perfect harmony with the mindset of the great nations, in which the film, like the WTO, handles third world concerns as if they had less value than first world ones.
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